Thursday, June 30, 2011

The truth about homework...

Two brothers doing their homework in a photo from around 1960.
Photo from NPR's report 
Recently, Los Angeles school district decided to limit the percentage that homework (click to see Time's article) can count for towards student grades. The idea is that students are spending far too much extracurricular time stuck in the books and homework is not an accurate indicator of a student's knowledge anyway, since there is no real means to monitor how the homework is completed (i.e. help from the internet, a parent, a sibling, etc.). In the preschool world, I have used homework given out each Friday as a way to encourage parent involvement. Families enjoy learning about what their little students are studying in school and students enjoy doing an activity that their older siblings get to do (ahhhh the pleasures of working with students who aren't yet jaded). 

Well here is another take on how we can reform our current usage of homework:

 Allow me to introduce you to Khan Academy. (While I'm at it...allow me to introduce you to TED talks where you can view presentations on every subject imaginable given by the most intelligent and insightful bunch of individuals that have helped shape one aspect or another of our world as we know it. FYI).

In this TED talk, Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy, talks about his vision of education reform including how we can use technology to empower teachers and students alike. Khan Academy offers short videos on various academic topics and then offers practice quizes for students to take that increase in difficulty as students master the content. Student progress on these quizes is then tracked. Pilot classrooms that have worked with Khan Academy as a supplemental teaching tool have used the videos as homework to prep students for the topic that will be taught the following day. Data on student's scores on the quizzes is monitored by teachers who can then individualize their teaching strategies to target students who might need extra help on a subject. Students can also be connected to other peers who are working on the same material.

The first awesome part about this is that the Khan Academy helps teachers individualize learning based on trackable data of the levels of each student on specific content. Second, it connects students with peers from around the globe that can help mentor and tutor. Imagine this amazing world where students are helping students and teachers are helping teachers and technology is utilized to its fullest! Sigh. ENJOY!!!

After watching the TED talk: What are YOUR thoughts?

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